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Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Wheel Bug.

 Updated: 3/29/2019; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




The ridge-backed Wheel Bug is a stealthy assassin with a fang that even humans would be wise to avoid.



This large insect is well-noted for its incredibly painful bite when disturbed or nonchalantly handled. A member of the Assassin Bug family, the Wheel Bug attacks other insects using a series of vicious stabbing motions with the 'fang' at the front of its head. This is the same fang that painfully stabs people who handle it or disturb it.

The Wheel Bug is best identified by the ridged, or spiny, wheel on its pronotum (back). Adults are a dusty gray color that may be pale enough to look white. The narrow head has two large black eyes on either side. The long, dark fang tucks in under the face. Antennae are red-orange. Females lay eggs on twigs and branches in clusters that almost resemble a honeycomb shape. Tiny larvae hatch and look completely different from their adult form. These small red and black larvae molt many times before growing to adult size and developing the 'wheel' on their backs. The fang is present even at this early stage of life.

The Wheel Bug operates primarily from summer into fall and feeds on other insects including slow-moving caterpillars. Its diet forces the Wheel Bug to reside primarily in leafy areas like forests, parks, or shrubbery. Look for them hiding among the dense foliage of plants.
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Spiny / Spiky insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hemiptera
        Family: Reduviidae
          Genus: Arilus
            Species: cristatus
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Arilus cristatus
Category: True Bug
Size (Adult; Length): 28mm to 36mm (1.09in to 1.40in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; gray; blue; red; black
Descriptors: spiky back, wheel, saw, fuzzy, arched back, fang, flying
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
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Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
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Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.